Dick Morris triangulates Dick Morris; A Media Matters for America Analysis of Rewriting History

FOX News Managing Editor and Chief Washington Correspondent Brit Hume, anchor of Special Report with Brit Hume, has said of Dick Morris -- the onetime adviser to Bill Clinton turned FOX News Channel contributor -- "[S]ometimes he says things that you think are inspired from another planet. ... If you're a political analyst, being wrong is a drawback." Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, has said, “He's frequently wrong.” And a Boston Globe review of Morris's 1999 book, The New Prince: Machiavelli Updated for the Twenty-First Century, noted that “Morris's contradictions and factual errors too often make a hash of what is supposed to be his argument.” [USA Today, 8/16/00; The Boston Globe, 7/20/99]

All that was before Morris's latest book, Rewriting History, hit the shelves today. The book is published by Regan Books, an imprint of Rupert Murdoch's HarperCollins Publishers. Murdoch, of course, also owns FOX News Channel. Rewriting History's dust jacket promises “a rebuttal to Hillary's bestselling autobiography,” Living History, and Morris recently boasted on FOX News Channel's Hannity & Colmes that his book contained “a hundred and eight-six distortions, omissions, exaggerations or lies.” Presumably, he meant that he had identified 186 distortions, omissions, exaggerations or lies in Clinton's book, although Morris's book does not deliver. [FOX News Channel, Hannity & Colmes, 4/19/04]

Rewriting History is number 6 on Amazon.com's "Bestsellers" list as of the afternoon of May 4.

The book's title is dead-on -- clear, straightforward, and an accurate reflection of what is to come; but from there, things go downhill in a hurry. A Media Matters for America review finds that, over the course of his 265 pages, Morris contradicts himself, makes factually inaccurate claims, and occasionally seems to make up stories out of whole cloth.

Dick Morris v. Dick MorrisDick Morris v. The Truth
Dick Morris Says: ... But Dick Morris Also Says:

Hillary Clinton's Speeches “Usually a Disappointment”: “When Bill Clinton speaks to an audience, he famously taps into the emotions of each and every listener. Hillary, on the other hand, never seems to live up to her billing. After the excitement of her dramatic arrival by motorcade has passed, her speech itself is usually a disappointment. ... [S]he rarely gets an emotional response from a crowd.” [Morris, Rewriting History, p. 8]

“Hillary Was Magnificent!”: “Whatever the controversy before she went, Hillary's trip to China was her most important success of Clinton's first term. Her speech, a clarion call for justice for women throughout the world, not only electrified the conference, but it served as a broad and encompassing statement of women's rights as human beings. ... Hillary was magnificent!” [Morris, Rewriting History, p. 130]

1996 Speech “Was a Great Success”: “Her [1996 Democratic National Convention] speech was a great success. It moved her husband up two points in that night's postspeech tracking poll -- the yardstick for virtue in those days. It was a great kickoff to the campaign.” [Morris, Rewriting History, p. 140]

“She Gives No Indication of Having Learned From the Fiasco of Health Care Reform”: “In all of Living History there is almost no suggestion of personal growth. She gives no indication of having learned from the fiasco of health care reform.” [Morris, Rewriting History, p. 62]

“Hillary has ... Shown Signs of Growth ... After the Health Care Fiasco, for Example”: “Hillary has, at times, shown signs of growth: After the health care fiasco, for example, she backed away from further attempts at broad-scale, utopian reforms.” [Morris, Rewriting History, p. 62 (just four paragraphs later!)]

“She Seems to Have Learned Her Lesson”: “Her left-ward tilt in the health care reform days was a thing of the past. She seemed to have learned her lesson.” [Morris, Rewriting History, p. 97]

“Car Tax” Caused 1994 Defeats; Blaming Health Care Reform is “Revisionist History”: “Reality check: My polling at the time showed that the Democrats lost mainly because they imposed a five-cent increase in the tax on gasoline. ... While revisionist history tends to credit future House Speaker Newt Gingrich's Contract with America for the GOP's ascendancy, and to blame health care reform for the Democrats' defeat, at the time it was clear to us that health care reform was a secondary issue. Once again, it was a car tax that had brought Bill Clinton down.” [Morris, Rewriting History, p. 95]

Republicans Won “In Part” by Attacking Health Care Plans: “But after the Republicans won the 1994 elections -- in part by excoriating Hillary's health care proposals -- the first lady gradually lost her influence, just as she had in the mid-1980s.” [Morris, Rewriting History, p. 192]

Democrats “Might Well Have Held onto Congress” in 1994 If Not for Health Care Reform Decision: “In 1994, she opted for nothing. But notwithstanding her resistance to the Dole Bill, in Living History Hillary takes credit for the passage of the Kennedy-Kassebaum legislation two years later. But she doesn't mention that workers would have had the right to take their health benefits to their new jobs much earlier if Hillary herself hadn't been so stubborn about her own initiative -- and the Democrats might well have held onto Congress in the bargain.” [Morris, Rewriting History, p. 121]

Dick Morris Says: The Truth Is:

Morris: Clinton Changed Eye Color: “As we all know, Hillary has changed her hair, her eye color, her dress, and her face more frequently than a professional model.” [Morris, Rewriting History, p. 5]

“Even her eyes were transformed, courtesy of brilliant turquoise contact lenses.” [Morris, Rewriting History, p. 36]

Morris's source? Matt Drudge.

Morris: Clinton “Wondered ... If a Person Could Be 'Both a Republican and a Christian'”: “Hillary has a Manichean view of issues, splitting the political world into dueling forces of good and evil. ... Behind every disagreement lurks an enemy. And not just an enemy, but the embodiment of evil. It is this Hillary who once wondered, incredibly, 'if a person could be both a Republican and a Christian.'” [Morris, Rewriting History, p. 22]

The Truth: Clinton Was Joking: The article Morris cites in his endnote reads, “She noted how hurt she has been by conservatives who proclaim that it is impossible to be both a Christian and a Democrat, then joked, 'I have to confess that it's crossed my mind that you could not be a Republican and a Christian from time to time.'” [Washington Post, 2/7/97; emphasis added]

Morris: Gore “Claimed to Be the Father of the Internet”: “When Al Gore claimed to be the father of the Internet, or that his marriage was the basis for Love Story, his exaggerations tripped him up.” [Morris, Rewriting History, p. 13]

The Truth: No, He Didn't: Princeton University Professor Sean Wilentz (among many, many others) has debunked this myth: “On March 9, 1999, questioned by CNN's Wolf Blitzer ... Gore remarked: 'During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet.' ... Upon viewing the Blitzer interview, though, a lazy reporter from Wired magazine picked up the story, sarcastically mischaracterized Gore in the Web pages of Wired News as claiming he was 'the father of the Internet,' and pointed out that research leading to the Internet began as early as the late 1960s. 'Vice President Gore tells a reporter the Internet was his idea,' Wired News concluded, inaccurately, adding the kicker, 'Nice try, Al.'” [Wilentz, The American Prospect, 9/25/00-10/9/00]

Morris: Distorts Clinton Quote; Claims She Ignores Criticism: “Often, she seems deliberately to overlook what people are saying about her in order to discuss what some say about people like her. In her memoir, she has a deft way of describing the strategy: 'I adopted my own mantra: Take criticism seriously but not personally.' In other words, disassociate yourself from any and all criticism. The attacks are never about her; there's no need to take them personally, because there's nothing wrong with her. ... And, because all criticism is about her class, not her, she neither listens to it nor learns from it.” [Morris, Rewriting History, p.57-58; italics in original, bold added]

The Truth: Clinton Explicitly Said She Tries to Learn From Criticism: “I adopted my own mantra: Take criticism seriously, but not personally. If there is truth or merit in the criticism, try to learn from it. Otherwise, let it roll right off you. Easier said than done.” [Hillary Rodham Clinton, Living History, p.110; bold added]

Morris: Morris: Claimed Clinton Accused Attackers of Prejudice: “Citing Richard Nixon's paraphrase of Cardinal de Richelieu's famous quotation, Hillary accused her attackers of harboring the prejudice that 'Intellect in a woman is unbecoming.'” [Morris, Rewriting History, p.59]

The Truth: Clinton Quoted Nixon, Didn't “Accuse” Anyone of Anything: “Former President Nixon's political instincts remained finely tuned, and he commented on our campaign in an interview during a visit to Washington in early February. 'If the wife comes through as being too strong and too intelligent,' he remarked, 'it makes the husband look like a wimp.' He then went on to note that voters tended to agree with Cardinal de Richelieu's assessment: 'intellect in a woman is unbecoming.'” [Hillary Rodham Clinton, Living History, p. 106]

Clinton's Quote of Nixon Was Accurate, Fair: Nixon was originally quoted in The New York Times: “Mr. Nixon suggested that the Clinton campaign would have to be careful about how it uses Hillary Clinton, because in general, 'If the wife comes through as being too strong and too intelligent, it makes the husband look like a wimp.' Mr. Nixon praised Barbara Bush as a model of a wife who has her own opinions without upstaging her husband, and suggested that many Americans are still put off by a male politician who does not seem to be as strong as his wife. The former President allowed that, unfortunately, some voters agree with Cardinal de Richelieu, who said, 'Intellect in a woman is unbecoming.'” [New York Times, 2/6/92]

Morris: “Hillary Actually Compares Herself to Nelson Mandela”: “On occasion, Hillary's ability to see herself as a martyr sacrificed for the greater good rises to the sublime. In Living History, Hillary actually compares herself with Nelson Mandela, somehow finding a moral equivalence between the Whitewater investigations and the decades of persecution Mandela suffered because of apartheid. During her May 1994 visit to South Africa, she describes how Mandela, at a speech, singled out 'three of his former jailers ... who had treated him with respect during his imprisonment. He asked them to stand so he could introduce them to the crowd.' ... Now, let's get some perspective here: Nelson Mandela endured decades in jail for the crime of trying to free his people. Hillary Clinton endured the scolding of the Wall Street Journal editorial page for her role in the White House Travel Office debacle. Hillary subsequently noted that if Mandela could forgive, then she could at least try to. So refined a sense of victimization is rare indeed.” [Morris, Rewriting History, p. 61, italics in original, bold added]

The Truth: No, She Doesn't - and Morris Skipped Nearly 250 Pages of Clinton's Book to Paint Misleading Picture: Needless to say, Clinton didn't “actually compare herself to Nelson Mandela” -- she simply said that if Mandela could forgive people, she should try. That's not a comparison, or an effort to equate her tormentors with his, and it would take a deliberate misreading to reach the conclusion Morris reaches.

Also, in the Morris quote to the left, Morris is quoting and referring to page 235 of Living History -- until, that is, he writes “Hillary subsequently noted” -- at that point, he's skipped ahead nearly 250 pages, to page 480. By doing so, Morris is able to imply that Clinton's comment about trying to forgive is in reference to The Wall Street Journal and the “Travel Office debacle.” It isn't: she is referring to her husband's relationship with Monica Lewinsky and Republican attacks on the Clintons' personal lives.

Morris: Doesn't Believe Clinton Was a Yankees Fan: "[A]s a lifelong New Yorker - and obsessive Yankees fan - myself, I know this much: In the hundreds of conversations I had with Bill and Hillary Clinton during our years working together, she never showed the slightest interest in what I now learn was our mutually favorite team." [Morris, Rewriting History, p.66]

The Truth: She Was: Picture 40 in Living History shows Hillary Clinton wearing a New York Yankees hat in 1992 -- eight years before her Senate campaign. And in 1994, The Washington Post reported, “Mrs. Clinton ... as a kid was a 'big-time' fan of the Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees and 'understudied' Ernie Banks and Mickey Mantle.” [Clinton, Living History; Washington Post, 9/12/94]

Morris: Few Presidents Have Ever Lost a Campaign: “Only a handful of our presidents had ever lost a race before becoming president.” [Morris, Rewriting History, p. 77]

The Truth: Nearly All Recent Presidents Have Suffered a Loss: Following is a partial list of U.S. presidents who had lost a campaign before becoming president, in reverse chronological order: George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson ... in other words, seven of the last eight -- and the exception (Gerald Ford) wasn't elected president.

Morris: Republicans Attacked Hillary Over Whitewater at 1992 Convention: “During the 1992 Republican National Convention, speaker after speaker lambasted Hillary, attacking her for Whitewater, her career conflicts of interest, and her seeming scorn for stay-at-home moms.” [Morris, Rewriting History, p. 88]

The Truth: No, They Didn't: If speakers at the 1992 Republican National Convention mentioned Whitewater at all, it escaped the media's notice: a Nexis search for “Clinton and Whitewater” and covering the weeks during and after the convention yield no indication that any speaker mentioned the land deal. This shouldn't be surprising; the failed land deal had garnered very little media attention by the time of the convention.

Morris: “Much of the Clinton [Administration] Program Stalled in Congress”: “Despite some successes, like ratification of NAFTA and the passage of a good, strong anti-crime bill that led directly to the subsequent drop in violent crime, much of the Clinton program stalled in Congress [during President Clinton's first year in office.]” [Morris, Rewriting History, p. 94-95]

The Truth: No, It Didn't: Mortimer Zuckerman wrote of Clinton's first year in office, "[M]ost Americans believe he can get things done. They believe it because it's true: Clinton's legislative program, which includes such major successes as reducing the deficit and passing NAFTA, rates as the most successful in the first year for a president since Dwight D. Eisenhower." [Zuckerman,US News & World Report, 1/31/94]

Morris: Morris's Brilliant Plan Not to Advertise in New York or DC Kept “Elitist” NY, DC Media Unaware of 1995 Ad Campaign: "[T]he president was afraid to advertise because he said it would look too political. ... 'We'll keep it secret,' I said. ... 'We won't advertise in New York City or in Washington, D.C. That's where all the reporters live,' I replied. ... Here we were, speaking to half the nation an average of three times a week for a year, and the New York-Washington media was so introverted and elitist that it never noticed!" [Morris, Rewriting History, p. 132-133]

The Truth: No, It Didn't -- Possibly Because Morris Talked to Reporters About It: “President Clinton effectively begins his re-election campaign on Tuesday, broadcasting $2.4 million worth of television advertisements in nearly two dozen markets nationwide. The White House spokesman, Michael D. McCurry, previewed the three 30-second advertisements -- all of which focus on crime -- for reporters at the White House today. ... The glossy ads, one of which features the President speaking in the Oval Office, were produced ... at the urging of Dick Morris?” [The New York Times, 6/27/95]

“After President Clinton left a Rose Garden ceremony to veto a Republican spending bill 10 days ago, he slipped into the White House to film what amounts to the first two Clinton television ads of the political season, directed by his new favorite adviser, Republican consultant Dick Morris.” [Washington Post, 6/18/95]

“Presidential aides say the television campaign serves several purposes at once. ... 'Paid media is the only way that we can get the frequency of repetition of the message for those who don't normally follow politics in a nonpolitical season to get what's at stake, and that's really why we're running the ads,' said Dick Morris, the political strategist for Mr. Clinton who was the chief proponent of the television campaign.” [The New York Times, 10/17/95]

Morris: There “Was Never Any Official Investigation” of Clinton's Commodities Trades: “In Living History, Hillary writes that her trading gains were 'examined ad infinitum after Bill became President,' ... just to be clear about the record: There never was any official investigation of her trades - only the work of enterprising investigative reporters.” [Morris, Rewriting History, p. 152]

The Truth: Yes, There Was: Newsweek, 7/8/96: “House Republican leaders seem determined to keep the heat on Hillary Clinton. Moderate House Agriculture Committee chairman Pat Roberts last week requested records relating to Mrs. Clinton's 1978 and '79 commodities trades from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange -- but only under pressure, Hill sources say. At a leadership meeting in late June attended by Speaker Newt Gingrich, the sources say, Roberts was told he had 48 hours to open an investigation of the $100,000 windfall Mrs. Clinton made trading cattle futures -- 'or else.' A spokesman for Roberts said he launched the probe after a leadership meeting but denied he was initially reluctant to do so. The White House says it released the relevant records in 1994.”

Morris: Any Competent Prosecutor Would Know Whitewater Was “Rotten”: “The clear message: Regardless of the final, inconclusive verdict, any competent prosecutor would have smelled something rotten in Whitewater.” [Morris, Rewriting History, p. 160]

The Truth: Three Prosecutors Had a Chance to Indict; Three Chose Not To: It's often said that a decent prosecutor can indict a ham sandwich. Neither Robert Fiske nor Ken Starr nor Robert Ray thought they could indict either Clinton for anything in any way related to Whitewater.

Morris: Clintons Invited Gene Eriquez to State Dinner Because They Wrongly Thought He Was Hispanic: “At one White House state dinner honoring President Zedillo of Mexico in 1995, I was introduced to quite a number of prominent Hispanic and Mexican Americans and Mexican public officials. After dinner, I noticed our friends Gene and Marta Eriquez and went to talk to them. At the time Gene was the mayor of Danbury, Connecticut, the town next to ours ? Gene asked if I had arranged the invitation, but I hadn't. Gene laughed. 'I think they must think I'm Hispanic,' he said. 'That happens a lot with my name.'” [Morris, Rewriting History, p. 231]

The Truth: Eriquez Wasn't On Guest List: While Morris was on the guest list for the 1995 state dinner honoring President Zedillo, Eriquez is not. Nor is anyone with a name resembling his. Nor is anyone identified as mayor of Danbury, Connecticut. [AP, 10/11/95; The Washington Times, 10/11/95; The Washington Post, 10/11/95]